by Richard Leis
What must a boy lose to become a little bird? In “The Juniper Tree,” by the Brothers Grimm, the boy loses more than just his head and his life after he is murdered by his evil stepmother. All that fat and skin and tissue sliced up, made into stew, fed to his oblivious father. All that bone wrapped up in a silk scarf and deposited under the juniper tree by his grieving half-sister. Then the tree works its magic and the dead boy is transformed into a living bird, a singing bird, a busy bird, a vengeful bird. He is without human arms, hands, and fingers now that they are wings. His legs are tiny and his feet are missing toes. His bones are hollow and light. His lips are rigid beaks.
People lose huge chunks of self—limbs, organs, functionality, quality of life—to disease and trauma every day. The survivors learn to fly and sing in their remaining bodies. They rise and fall and rise again with new routines and augmentations. They do not, however, receive for their efforts the bird’s reward at the end of the fairy tale: upon crushing his stepmother with a millstone, he immediately transforms back into the living boy he once was.
Transformative rewards may be coming, though. Recent medical breakthroughs promise to give back what survivors have lost: 3D-printed windpipes and other organs infused with the patient’s own cells.  Thought-controlled prosthetics.  Face transplants.  Rewritten genetic code to prevent and treat genetic diseases.  These and other emerging technologies arrive and improve so rapidly that we have to wonder where all of this is heading. For a few years yet, these technologies will only approximate what survivors have lost, but there may soon come a time when technology returns full functionality to the human body and imbues it with better-than-human capabilities and performance.
After a terrible accident, the protagonist in Sunny Moraine’s recent short story, “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained,” grapples with a cutting-edge prosthetic arm, an arm that provides enhancements and capabilities the original did not have, an arm that may be sentient, an arm that may be seeking friendship.  When a medical breakthrough arrives that fully regrows lost biological limbs, the protagonist ponders the question “The Juniper Tree” never thought to ask: What must the little bird lose to become the boy again?
Richard Leis is a reader for Tiny Donkey, an editorial assistant for Fairy Tale Review, and a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He studies Creative Writing and English at the University of Arizona, where he is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).
 “Doctors Create A 3D Printed Trachea on a MakerBot.” 3D Print. 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://3dprint.com/40128/3d-printed-trachea/>.
 “Prosthetic Limbs, Controlled by Thought.” The New York Times. 20 May 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/technology/a-bionic-approach-to-prosthetics-controlled-by-thought.html?_r=0>.
 “Face transplant.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_transplant>.
 Cimons, Marlene. “Rewriting genetic information to prevent disease.” The National Science Foundation. 25 February 2015. Web. 4 July 2015. <http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=134286>.
 Moraine, Sunny. “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained.” Uncanny Magazine. 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://uncannymagazine.com/article/love-letters-things-lost-gained/>